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Garden Design Plans

Updated on January 30, 2010

All good projects need a plan. If you want to do landscaping you are going to need to create some garden design plans. Even if you simply want to plant some flowers in an existing bed, your end result is bound to turn out better if you've taken a few minutes to decide what will go where. It's not just digging holes because you have to keep in mind that the plants you buy are almost always much smaller than they will be. If you plants things too close together, in a couple of years your landscape that you tried so hard to make look good will look like an overgrown jungle and have to be torn up and redone. No one likes to waste their effort. Our time these days is too precious. You could be out enjoying your landscape if you just take a little extra time up front to do it right. It is not necessary for you to learn all the ins and outs of every little thing because I'll bet you have an idea in your head from your neighborhood walks (you did go check out your neighbor's houses didn't you?). Just take a little while to put that plan on paper to ensure that things turn out well.

Garden Design Plans are an important step.
Garden Design Plans are an important step.

In our first segment on front yard landscaping ideas, I showed you some things you need to think about and how to get some initial ideas for your own landscape. In this segment we are going to talk about how to come up with a plan.One of the first things you want to do before starting your garden design plans is to take some measurements of the area you will be working in. You don't need an expensive surveyor tool or even a tape measure if you don't have it (although a tape measure is very helpful). Depending on the size of your space, you could simply pace it off or use something else to consistently measure point A to point B. Take a notepad with you and write your measurements down. It's easier than having to go out and measure again when you forget, especially if your space isn't just a simple box shape. You don't need absolute perfect detail if you only plan to change a couple of plantings, but things that require more hardscape elements such as putting in walkways or building retaining walls will probably benefit from some additional precision. While you are out there measuring go ahead and draw a basic sketch of the current layout of things while also keeping in mind the large, immovable elements like trees or hardscape items you plan to keep. You might want to measure their distances from the edges of your plan also if you need that extra level of precision when deciding what to put where.

From Measuring and Sketching to the Planning

Okay, so now that you are done with your measurements, and you hopefully have made a basic sketch, you are much closer to having good garden design plans. This initial exercise will go a long way in making sure that you have an accurate starting point to work from. If you are not happy with how your sketch looks, take a new piece of paper and redraw it.  Just make sure to keep the permanent elements you accounted for initially in place. You don't need to be an artist here, so just put pencil to paper and use your eraser if you mess up. The key is to have this done before you move on to the design stage. When you have your sketch that you are happy with, I would suggest scanning it into your computer or make several copies at the library or something. You want to have several “blank” pages with your original sketch as the starting point so you can draw and try different things without having to redraw the original each time. The less work you make for yourself at this point will leave more time for you to be creative and ensure that your final product is the best that it can be.

Now you need to get down to trying different things on your copies of your sketch. Are you going to put a border there or a walkway over there? Is it going to be straight or curved? This is also where you may want to take your topography, or the “lay of the land” into account. Slopes and hills will require you to think differently about the use of certain hardscape items like long wood pieces, such as railroad ties and landscape timbers. Go crazy and have fun with this step. As long as you have several copies of the original, don't worry too much about each detail. You are free to combine things you like later and get rid of the things you don't like. As for your plants, you want to consider how the general types you thought of before while you were finding your front yard landscaping ideas, and just sketch some general shapes on your working garden design plan. Unless you are a botanist, you probably don't know too many different types of plants by name, but that step will come later. Having a good nursery to buy plants from will help, but there are plenty of resources I can show you later.

Detailed sketch for a large project. I repeat, you don't have to be an artist to make a sketch.
Detailed sketch for a large project. I repeat, you don't have to be an artist to make a sketch.

By the time you have played with several different combinations, hopefully you will have settled on most, if not all, of the things you like and want to add to your landscape. As you narrow down the choices, look at the various requirements of the plants you are considering as well as installation procedures for your hardscape items. Start writing down some of this information, especially the types of plants you are leaning towards and take your garden design plans to a local nursery. The professionals there can help you adjust your plant types if need be and make any other recommendations you might not have considered. After that final step, you are essentially done planning. It's time to take your design and move from the planning to the doing. The doing is the best part, so have fun!


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    • profile image

      shed plan 6 years ago

      Very helpful info and tips on planning out the landscaping. Great hub and thank you!

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 7 years ago from Tennessee

      Holle, that is so weird that your comment just showed up, but it says two days ago. No, my name isn't John. :) And, I cannot wait for growing season to arrive as I have some awesome plans to put into place this year! Thanks!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Great hub! I'll be re-visiting when the weather warms a little!

      Your name is JOhn? Why didn't I know that?

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 7 years ago from Tennessee

      Thank you, Nancy! Landscaping is one of my favorite pastimes. I just love being outside and using my creativity.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      This is good, John. Lots of helpful information. I like this Thanks